Archives For Economics


Elizabeth Cline - OverdressedFinding Freedom in Our Clothes Closets.

A Feature Review of

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.

Elizabeth Cline.

Hardback: Portfolio, 2012.
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Reviewed by Amy Peterson.

I still remember the first time I got to go shopping- alone – after giving birth to my second child. He was seven months old.  It had been a while.

I was driving to pick up our free-range Thanksgiving turkey from a family farm in Kokomo, and had some extra time, so I stopped at Old Navy.  A skirt, a dress, a cardigan, and two t-shirts later, I left for the farm, crowing over my successes.  “An $8 dress that makes me feel like Tami Taylor?  How could I not buy it?”

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (Penguin 2012), by Elizabeth Cline, demonstrates why I ought to learn to curb – or at least refine – that bargain-hunting impulse.   In much the same way that Michael Pollan investigated how Americans get their food in The Omnivore’s Dilemma (leading me to buy that free-range turkey, incidentally), Cline spent three years investigating the world of fashion and clothing production.  What she finds in Overdressed is enough to convince me that there might be as good a reason to pay more for the right kinds of clothes as there is to pay more for the right kinds of food.

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Jonathan Gruber - Health Care ReformKapow! It’s Health Care Reform

A Review of

Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works

Jonathan Gruber, with H.P. Newquist,

Illustrated by Nathan Schrieber.

Paperback: Hill & Wang, 2011.
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Reviewed  by Jess O. Hale, Jr.


Jonathan Gruber - Health Care ReformOther Sample Pages Available on Amazon:
[ Sample #2 ]  [ Sample #3 ] [ Sample #4 ]

With spring bringing us Marvel’s ” Avengers” out to rave reviews and giant box office and summer looking toward a new Batman movie, what better way to tide a politically-engaged readership of comic books over than a discussion of health care reform?  Well, what if it came in the form of a graphic novel—does that help?  I hope so, as lack of health insurance and spiraling costs are quite arguably more serious threats to young adults than Loki.  Yet as we await a Supreme Court decision on the constitutional fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the more neutral shorthand for Congress’ enactment of the health reform effort that President Obama pushed for and signed, many people know more about a movie about comic book characters than about the content of what the health reform legislation actually does.  With a little help,  MIT economist Jonathan Gruber has sought to explain the nuts and bolts of health care reform in a format readily accessible to many young adults (and quite a few older folk who are at least a little young at heart) – a graphic novel.  Ably assisted by H. P. Newquist and Nathan Schreiber, Gruber has written Health Care Reform:  What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works as an explanation of the ACA for those who are not political or policy junkies.

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Mara Einstein - Compassion, Inc.The Moral Life of Corporations

A Review of

Compassion, Inc.: How Corporate America Blurs the Line Between What We Buy, Who We Are, and Those We Help
Mara Einstein.

Hardback: U of California Press, 2012.
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Reviewed by Amy Gentile.

Have you ever noticed all the “green” products nowadays and been skeptical of whether the companies making those products really care about the environment or are just jumping on the “do good” bandwagon? Have you ever felt uncomfortable with the idea of purchasing products to make a donation, like Product(RED) items, or donations that get you a badge of honor to wear, such as the ubiquitous yellow LIVESTRONG and other rubber bracelets? If so, you will probably enjoy this book; if these questions haven’t ever crossed your mind before now, you should definitely read this book.

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“Is Christ divided?
The Witness of an Ecumenical Table, Not an Ecumenical Babel?”

A Brief Review of

Ecumenical Babel:
Confusing Economic Ideology
and Church’s Social Witness

Jordan J. Ballor.
Christian Library Press, 2010.
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Reviewed by Jess O. Hale, Jr.

To many Christians today the lack of unity among Christ’s followers scandalizes the church, but for many disciples of Jesus the depth of poverty across the globe and around the corner is equally scandalous.  It is quite natural that both realities give offense to Jesus’s followers as Paul’s lament in 1 Corinthians (“Is Christ divided?”) is later matched by his collection for the poor and his horror at people going hungry at the Lord’s Table while others feasted.  In Ecumenical Babel, a young Reformed scholar who edits the Journal of Markets and Morality for the free-market oriented Acton Institute, Jordan Ballor, looks at the ecumenical movement and shares the scandal of the division in the body of Christ, but disappointingly he seems as caught up in economic ideology as those he blasts with criticism.  While today’s ecumenical movement is undoubtedly sickly and I had guarded hopes when Ballor took Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s passionate confessional ecumenism as a point of departure, unfortunately Ballor cannot rise above a screed against his assessment of “neo-Marxism” and liberation theology with his equally ideological and baldly asserted free-market neo-liberalism (xvi, 4, 105).

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“Take a Walk in Their Shoes

A Review of
The Maid’s Daughter:
Living Inside and Outside the American Dream

by Mary Romero

Review by Leslie Starasta.

The Maid’s Daughter:
Living Inside and Outside the American Dream

by Mary Romero.
Hardback: NYU Press, 2011.
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The opening scene of the movie version of The Help asks what it feels like to raise white children when your own children are being raised by someone else.  The Maid’s Daughter: Living Inside and Outside the American Dream examines this question and many others from the viewpoint of the child of domestic workers depicting how one woman of Latina descent traverses the cultural divide between Mexican culture and a privileged white upper class while truly belonging to neither.  Mary Romero, sociology professor at Arizona State University, transforms twenty years of recorded interviews with a woman referred to as “Olivia Sanchez” into a highly readable book which juxtaposes Olivia’s story, as told to Romero, with sociological commentary, research and selected interviews with other children of domestic workers.   This thought provoking study raises many questions to wrestle with on both individual and societal levels

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Laboring in the Lord’s Vineyard

A Review of

All You That Labor:
Religion and Ethics in the Living Wage Movement
C. Melissa Snarr.
Hardback: NYU Press, 2011.
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[ Amazon ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

Reviewed By Jess O. Hale, Jr.

As you look for a bargain on tomatoes at a large supermarket chain, the labor of a poorly paid farm worker seldom comes to mind nor does that of a hotel maid even if you leave a few dollars on the bed.   If you think about it, you know that those working folk need to make enough to pay rent, child care, health insurance and more—and you know that often they do not and the market is NOT working for those struggling ones among God’s children.  Then seeing video of noisy town hall meetings on health care or demonstrations protesting legislation affecting public employees might make you think that government is so dysfunctional that all citizens can do is go and shout, make a fuss and not accomplish anything.  In such a frustrating environment, a person of faith needs a tale of encouragement that a religiously grounded public witness can participate fruitfully in shaping a city where God’s justice means a person can labor and earn enough to live decently and perhaps even flourish.  In All You That Labor we find just such a tale as Vanderbilt ethics professor and activist Melissa Snarr uses a scholar’s tools to tell the story of the role of religion in the living wage movement in several American cities.  Snarr insightfully tells a story of local activists grounded in religious faith, Christian faith and other faiths, drawing on those resources and actually changing public policy at the local level.

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Alternatives to
Economic Darwinism

A Review of
New Financial Horizons:
The Emergence of
an Economy of Communion
Lorna Gold.
Paperback: New City Press, 2010.
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Reviewed by Margaret D’Anieri.

In her introduction, author Lorna Gold writes:

The end of the twentieth century was marked by the so-called “triumph of capitalism” and the failure of the socialism regimes in  Eastern Europe. It was accompanied by a wave of optimism that the “evils” of communism could be overcome by the forces of the free market… just two decades on … the world appeared a very different place. A world of prosperity delivered by free market globalization seemed like a distant dream. All over the world, governments were forced to step in to shore up banks, the stalwarts of market capitalism. Massive inequalities in opportunity remain the norm. Environmental destruction threatens. A series of truly global crises challenges us to think carefully about the assumptions on which economy and society is based.

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An excerpt from the book:

The Economics of Enough:
How to Run the Economy as If the Future Matters
Diane Coyle
Hardback: Princeton UP, 2011.
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Read our review of this book


Two great videos of Wendell Berry that I discovered recently:

Reading poems from Leavings
(One of our best books of 2009… Read our review.)

Talking about the basics of his economics.
(Read our review of What Matters? One of our best books of 2010).

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An excerpt from

Radical Homemakers:
Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture
Shannon Hayes.
Paperback: Chelsea Green, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon – Paperback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

Read our above review